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Scarborough, ME  - As of this date it appears the Kentucky Derby will not be simulcast at Scarborough Downs this year or at any other venues in Maine. Despite repeated requests from Scarborough Downs, Churchill Downs has declined to make the race available to us and our fans. We understand Churchill Downs has also denied requests from Maine's OTB parlors, Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the on-line advanced-deposit-wagering site created by the Maine Legislature and the Gambling Control Board. We are disappointed with the decision of Churchill Downs and continue to renew our requests, hoping for a more reasoned approach that treats Maine racing fans fairly. We understand that Churchill Downs and Oxford Casino, which Churchill controls, were disappointed that the Gambling Control Board did not pick a Churchill affiliate to operate Maine's new advanced deposit wagering system. The Downs supported allowing Oxford Casino to operate an advance deposit wagering system, and we have long contended that laws that discriminate against venues are mistaken, including the laws that have prevented the Downs from competing with Oxford Casino. But as much as we have disagreed with Legislative choices, we have always tried to work with the entire racing and gaming community for the good of Maine residents and the industry. We hope Churchill Downs and the Oxford Casino will likewise consider the interests of Maine fans as we work together to make the best of these difficult and challenging times. Scarborough Downs features live harness racing on a Tuesday and Saturday schedule with post time slated at 1:30 PM (EDT). In addition to the live on-track experience, people may also watch and wager on Scarborough Downs races at Maine's OTB parlors, and online at (Maine residents must wager at For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. by Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, ME - August 3, 2020 ... Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the state of Maine harness racing industry is once again on the ascendancy as Scarborough Downs will restart its 2020 season on Tuesday (8/4), kicking off a late summer meet that is scheduled to extend through the month of October. The Downs will race on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday with post time slated for 1:30 PM (EDT) for the next two weeks, before establishing a Tuesday, Saturday schedule beginning on August 18 when Bangor Historic Track will join the mix by hosting racing on Wednesdays and Sundays. After racing came to a conclusion in early July at the Downs, an historic agreement between the Maine Harness Horsemen's Association, The Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, The Maine Harness Racing Commission and the two commercial tracks has created a funding vehicle to help provide operational revenues to the racing venues, enabling Maine's harness racing horsemen and women and other industry participants an opportunity to get back to work. In the midst of their 70th season, Scarborough Downs was forced to relinquish their customary April and May dates in compliance with emergency declarations from the state of Maine but then received special permission to open for racing on June 5th. Operating revenue dried up after 17 performances though as the industry attempted to function on a spectator less basis, and the Downs was forced to close their doors on July 10th. Track revenues will now become partially reestablished as new guidelines allow up to 150 spectators to attend the live harness racing cards with attendees spaced and socially distanced throughout the massive grandstand apron and new outdoor trackside beer garden. Additionally, simulcast wagering is now being conducted on a Tuesday through Saturday schedule from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM in the Winner's Circle Lounge, with simulcast attendance capped at 50 customers. Mask wearing and social distancing will be required and strictly enforced at all times at the Downs. "It's tough to overstate the Herculean effort that was put forth by the entire industry to get harness racing back up and running this year" said Denise Terry, President and Treasurer of Scarborough Downs, "The agreement that was worked out coupled with the fact that our revenue streams have been partially reestablished, gives us hope as we head back to the races on Tuesday. All industry participants will now pledge to work cooperatively to provide a safe and exciting racing experience, both in the paddock for the horsemen and women and in the grandstand areas for our patrons." In addition to the live on-track experience, people may also watch and wager on the Scarborough Downs races at Maine's OTB parlors, and online at (Maine residents must wager at For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. by Mike Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 8, 2020 ... In the midst of the 70th season of racing at Scarborough Downs, the summer harness racing meet will be suspended following the card on Friday (7/10) due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, which currently do not allow the track to entertain patrons. The Downs was prohibited from racing its customary April and May dates due to the state of emergency declared in Maine. Working with others in the industry, however, the Downs received special permission from the Maine Department of Economic Development to launch its season on June 3rd, under strict protocols, which included racing without spectators at our live cards. Operating with funds secured from the Payroll Protection Plan and with financial grants received from the Maine Harness Racing Commission, the track was able to conduct an abbreviated 17 day meet, allowing our proud industry and our animals a chance to compete. Those funds are exhausted, however, and the Downs is working on plans for new and different revenues, perhaps including revenues from patrons or other sources, so that the Downs and our industry can resume the competition, fun, and excitement of live racing this fall. Scarborough Downs hopes to generate revenues through full card simulcasting, which we understand is allowed under stage three of the state's re-opening plan, and other revenue ideas management is pursuing. Downs management is cautiously optimistic live racing can reopen September 5th. "The Downs is proud of its long history as an integral part of Maine racing since 1950," Denise Terry, President and Treasurer of the Downs, said, "The hard work of our loyal employees and others in the industry allowed the Downs to operate live racing with only remote wagering this spring. "No other Maine track and only a handful of tracks in the country were able to operate during the COVID shutdown. We appreciate the efforts of our employees, Maine's wonderful horsemen, and the leadership and the Maine Harness Racing Commission and its staff, including in particular Executive Director Henry Jennings. Everyone worked cooperatively to provide safe, exciting racing on the limited basis that was possible under the circumstances. We are optimistic we will find a way forward to an even more robust and exciting, but equally safe, fall meet." For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine ... The state of Maine continues through a phased re-opening from Covid-19 shutdown and as part of that reopening, the office of Governor Janet T. Mills has granted approval for Scarborough Downs to launch its delayed 2020 harness racing meet. The Downs will kick off their 70th season on Wednesday June 3rd on a spectator-less basis and will continue to race on a three day per week schedule (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) with post time slated at 1:00 PM (EDT). While fans will not be able to attend the races during the initial startup period, the races will be available for watching and out-of-state wagering on the Day at the Track wagering platform ( and/or and on the newly created state of Maine Advanced Deposit Wagering platform ( "We are excited to work in partnership to lead the state of Maine harness racing industry into the 2020 season" said Denise Terry of Scarborough Downs, "It's been a rough few months for the entire nation but in true American fashion we have rolled up our sleeves and done what was necessary to pull through. Maine harness racing has been granted a great chance today and we are determined to do everything necessary to repay the state's vote of confidence." Maine's horsemen and women along with the industry in general have survived this arduous period and are now anxious to get back to work. Racing will be conducted under strict protocols designed by industry leaders that will ensure the safety of all participants and the greater community. This includes enforcement of the governor's 14-day quarantine period for non-residents entering the state. These protocols will necessarily be enforced to the letter and will be available for review at beginning on Monday (6-1). "It's hard to believe that it has been six months since horses have gone behind the gate" said Mike Cushing, president of the Maine Harness Horsemen's Association, "We have been given a great opportunity to get back to doing what we do, and I urge all participants to familiarize themselves with the plan of operation and adhere to it." "The approved risk mitigation plan contains strict safety protocol designed for racing at Scarborough Downs without fans. Please remember that if you are not allowed access to the paddock, you should not come to the track on race days until a plan for spectators is reviewed and approved by the governor." Scarborough's first condition sheet will be published on Friday afternoon with a double draw for Wednesday's and Friday's card to be conducted on Sunday morning (5-31). The box for both days will close at 9:00 AM. Please contact Mike Sweeney (207-252-8873) for further information

Scarborough, ME - Sunday's live harness racing card at Scarborough Downs has been postponed due to predicted inclement weather which is expected to conspire to produce less than ideal track conditions. The card, in its entirety, has been carried over to Tuesday (11/26) with post time slated for 12:05 pm (EST). Scarborough Downs will remain open for simulcast wagering on Sunday. Live harness racing continues every Saturday and Sunday at 12:15 pm through December 8th. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - October 12, 2019 ... A large and enthusiastic crowd converged on Scarborough Downs on Saturday (10/12) to witness the crowning of the Maine Sire Stakes champions as Maine's premier harness racing facility once again played host to Maine's marquee day of racing on Festival of Champions Day. Purses in excess of $570,000 heightened the anticipation as Maine's preeminent drivers mapped out their strategies, but it was a 21-year-old rising star bursting boldly to the head of the class on Saturday. Matthew Athearn, winning early and winning often, grabbed top honors in three of the eight Maine Sire Stakes Finals before closing out his grand slam day with a maiden class victory in the afternoon's finale. Athearn, whose horses earned $132,963 on Saturday, clearly lived up to the nickname "Matty Ice" as he coolly vaulted into forth place in the drivers standings while simultaneously elevating to the status of leading money earner at the meet this year. Two-year-old Filly Trot Final - $55,045 purse Athearn's profitable day quickly got underway in the very first race of the day as he guided RT's Warrior to a gate-to-wire score timed in 2:03.2. The win was the third career tally for the daughter of Noble Venture-Oye Oye who is trained by Matty's mother, Gretchen Athearn for owner William Phipps. "He's a strong willed trotter who wants things his own way" Gretchen remarked, "He certainly got his preferred trip today." Current Caper (Bruce Ranger) finished second while Gracie Under Fire (Ivan Davies) rallied for third. Three-year-old Colt Trot Final - $82,157 purse Athearn's day of acclaim continued later in the program as Hall of Fame conditioner, Donald Richards, sent a pair of trotters to the gate for longtime owners Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight. Wind Current (Current Cast - Flourescent), the less regarded portion of the entry, glided comfortably to the front, en route to an 11-1/2 length manhandling of his fellow high-steppers. The mile was timed in a lifetime best 2:01.2 to give "Matty Ice" his second stakes win of the afternoon. In Bill We Trust (Shane Taggart) crashed the number at 35-1 odds to finish second while Spot On Gone (Mark Athearn) was elevated to third after Ally Way Cast (the other portion of the Richards entry) was placed out of the money for a pylon rule violation. Two-year-old Colt Trot Final - $54,948 purse Athearn scored his third stakes trotting win in this division as he once again chose the front end journey for The Man Band (Boy Band - Cinematic Hanover). The duo maintained a steady advantage throughout the mile before holding off a determined late stretch run by Stevic (Ivan Davies) who fell a mere length shy at the wire. Trained by partial owner Marc Tardif for fellow owner Leighton Property, The Man Band broke his maiden in the biggest engagement of his career on Saturday, stopping the clock in 2:04.4. Current Connection (Bruce Ranger) completed the top three. Three-year-old Filly Trot - $82,168 A year of dominant performances continued for Just Enuf Sass on Saturday as the daughter of Boy Band - Sassy's Child toyed with the competition while securing her ninth win of the season for owner-trainer Joseph Flynn with regular driver Michael Stevenson sitting the seat. "Joe's had this filly good all season long" Stevenson remarked, "Its pretty remarkable how she's grown mentally since she was a two-year-old. She has a bright future ahead of her." Pembroke Sweets (Heath Campbell) finished second while Winning Wind (Matthew Athearn) battled for third. Two-year-old Filly Pace - $55,073 purse Shes A Fireball (Western Maverick - Fire Can Fly) claimed top honors in this freshman filly split after grinding it out in first over style to claim a brand new lifetime mark of 2:00 flat in only the second win of her career. Ron Cushing expertly executed the robust driving strategy for trainer Heidi Gibbs and his co-owner Adams Racing "She's a moody filly and I had trouble keeping her flat this year" Cushing said, "She was bred from a broodmare I owned with Ken Clairmont but its a little bittersweet as unfortunately we lost Kenny a couple of years ago." Two Moods (Ivan Davies) was second while Maverick Fiber (John Nason), the post time favorite settled for third. Two-year-old Colt Pace - $55,095 purse Chico Estrella (Western Maverick - Madonna Hanover) capped a lightly raced yet brilliant season by scoring her sixth win of the year from only seven starts. Driver Gary Mosher steered the Erika Saucier trainee through an extended first over gambit up the backstretch before clearing to the top by the head of the lane, stopping the clock in 2:01. Out of a blue hen brood mare, Chico Estrella is owned by the stalwart tandem of W J Donovan and the East Pond Stable. Wesley Snoops (Ivan Davies) finished second at 32-1 odds while Pembroke Hat Trick (David Ingraham) added additional value, finishing third at 18-1 odds. Three-year-old Filly Pace - $82,184 purse Wicked Wanda (Deuce Seelster - Wafflesicecream) upset the heavily favored Moonlightandroses after grabbing an advantageous second over journey which was punctuated by a stunning three wide swoop off the final turn with driver David Ingraham calling the shots for owner/trainer Tony Dearborn. "We got a good trip today, yes that's true" Ingraham mused, "But this mare has been good all year long." JUstCallMeBets (Matthew Athearn) was second while MayDayMaverickHope finished third at 31-1 odds as the Trifecta payoff came back at a hefty $1346.80. Three-year-old Colt Pace - $82,195 purse Trainer Valerie Grondin claimed the lions' share in this sophomore colt final as two of her trainees, Victoria's Maverick (Heath Campbell) and Bait A Hook (David Ingraham) finished first and second respectively. Bait A Hook did all the hard work, racing first over up the backstretch but it was his stablemate who benefited as Victoria's Maverick drafted behind the live cover before sprinting to the lead at the wire. A brother to Maine Stakes Champions Seeley Man and Pembroke Perfect, the son of Western Maverick - Perfect Launch stopped the clock in a seasonal best 1:58.3 for co-owners Leighton Property and Bruce Plouffe. CBF Bantam (Gary Mosher) overcame a break at the start to rally for the show. Even as the Maine Sire Stakes season concludes Scarborough Downs will continue to feature live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm (EDT) through the first weekend in December. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, ME - October 11, 2019 ...The Maine Sire Stakes Championship round takes center stage during Festival of Champions Day on Saturday (10/12) at Scarborough Downs, and with over $500,000 in purse money on the line, this will be the richest day in Maine harness racing this season. Eight Maine Sire Stakes Championship races will anchor the eleven race program which is slated to get underway at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) while a festival atmosphere overtakes the historic grandstand at the southern Maine racing venue. Fans will be welcomed at a special trackside tented pavilion area that has been created specifically for the event. Sharon Hood and the Dixon Road Band, one of Maine's premier country music groups will perform in between races, local food trucks will provide tantalizingly delicious food offerings, and a trackside beer garden will be featured. Local radio station WPOR will be broadcasting live from the Downs throughout the afternoon, registering attendees for a grand prize getaway trip for two to the Luke Combs concert at Mohegan Sun. The only place to register for the trip will be at Scarborough Downs on Saturday and the winner will be drawn trackside at 4:30 pm. Admission and programs are free on Festival of Champions Day, and fans will also have the opportunity to enter to win a $1000 Cash Giveaway and six pairs of tickets to the upcoming Travis Tritt concert in Augusta, Maine. Face painting and trackside games will delight the kids on Saturday while everyone will enjoy meeting Winnie, Maine harness racing's mascot, and make sure to check out the Virtual Reality Harness Racing Experience - the closest thing to driving in an actual race! "This is the harness racing party they'll be talking about for years to come" said Denise Terry, vice-president of Scarborough Downs. "We wanted to create a festive atmosphere to help showcase these championship races, and with the help of the Maine Harness Racing Commission and the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, I think we've come up with the perfect mix." Scarborough Downs features live harness racing every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm (EDT). For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - September 1, 2019 ...Just two days after Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones wrapped up their latest American tour in Miami, a harness racing horse named McJagersOnTheMove made a sparkling debut at Scarborough Downs on Sunday (9/1) while equaling the all-age track record in a brilliant 1:52.3 performance. Fresh off an eye-popping 1:52.3 score at the Windsor (Maine) Fair, the seven-year-old son of McArdle-Grand Fancy appeared destined for a more pedestrian journey on Sunday, gliding to the quarter in an easy 28.3 before catching a breather to the half in 57.1. With an almost imperceptible shifting of gears though, he began to separate himself from the field just past the half before reaching the three-quarter mile marker in a breathtaking 1:24.3. Perhaps sensing an epic in the making, driver Drew Campbell, who had sat prone in the sulky up to that point, began to ask the horse for just a bit more. The horse gamely responded in the affirmative, pacing his final panel in a smart 28 seconds, completing an astounding 55.2 back-half clocking, and romping home over 30-lengths the best to etch his name in the storied annuls of Scarborough Downs. McJagersOnTheMove who is trained by Frank Petrelli for owner Marissa Russo of Eden, NY, equaled the track record that was set by the Drew Campbell driven JJs Jet in the 2018 edition of Scarborough's Mid-Summer Classic. Ironically, JJs Jet was on hand in the race paddock to witness his track record being equaled after winning for the 53rd time in his career just two races prior. The win was one of six on Sunday's card for driver Drew Campbell, who effectively fortified his position atop the leader's board with the devastatingly powerful performance. Live harness racing will continue next weekend at Scarborough Downs with a 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight card on Saturday followed by the popular 1:30 pm Sunday matinee performance, all leading up to the closing day of the summer meet which is slated for September 14th. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - August 18, 2019 ...The freshman trotters of the Maine Sire Stakes program reached the mid-way point of their eight race season on Sunday (8/18) and as both the fillies and colts duked it out on the half-mile oval at Scarborough Downs, harness racing driver Heath Campbell, with two stakes win on the program, was proven the most prodigious pugilist of them all. A scant field of four Maine-breds answered the call for the colt and geldings division, requiring an early non-betting event to be conducted for a generous $9448 purse offering. All four trotters came to the races with their maiden status firmly intact and three of them left labeled the same, but it was Cashes Ledge (Noble Venture-Rhonwen) who rolled on in confident front running fashion, to post his first career winning performance while tripping the tele-timer in a smart 2:06.2. Heath Campbell earned the first of his two Maine-bred victories while calling the shots for owner/trainer Owen Davies. T Brook Billy (G. Mosher) sat second throughout and finished just that way, while Current Connection (B. Ranger) rode the pylon path for the show. Fillies proved much more plentiful than colts on Sunday though, as 14 Maine-bred lasses split out into a pair of $9948 dashes. Pembroke Whisper completely dominated the first filly contest en route to engineering her third career victory march as Heath Campbell steered the front end course behind the daughter of Noble Venture-Spring Laughter to nail his second stakes score of the afternoon. The impressive filly is trained by Valerie Grondin for stalwart owner, William Varney. The mile, timed in 2:06.4, also featured a stirring and extended battle for runner-up honors as Noble Posey (M. Athearn) and Bisou (K. Ireland) ferociously engaged throughout the final quarter to finish second and third respectively. Saving the best for last though, the final filly split proved to be the most exciting stakes race of the afternoon, as Current Caper out dueled RT's Warrior through an epic stretch battle to preserver by mere whiskers at the wire. Driver Bruce Ranger charted the winning course for the Donald Richards trainee, who broke her maiden in a respectable 2:04.2 clocking. The Daughter of Current Cast-Ally Gal Ridge is owned in tandem by Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight. RT's Warrior (M. Athearn) was magnificent in the bridesmaid role while Sammi K (G. Mosher) finished third. Live racing resumes at 4:30 PM (EDT) on Saturday (8/24) at Scarborough Downs when the $25,000 Ricci Memorial Trot will take center stage to anchor Travers Stakes Day from Saratoga Racecourse. The Ricci Memorial, pegged as the biggest trotting event of the season in Maine, will be augmented by powerful promotions, including a $500 cash giveaway, drawings for Fall Fair Fun Pac Passes to all four of Maine's fall agricultural fairs, and a gift bag drawing after every race. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - August 3, 2019 ... The three-year-old pacing divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program concluded a month-long residency at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (8/3) as the sophomore steeds made their fourth consecutive appearance at the seaside oval, split into twin five horse fields of fillies and a mirror image arrangement of colts. Moonlightandroses claimed her third sire stakes victory of the year in the afternoon's first $9717 filly split, pouncing out of the pocket late while charting a brand new career pacing mark of 1:59.3 with customary driver Heath Campbell calling the shots. The reigning freshman champion, a daughter of Deuce Seelster-Guard The Rose, is trained by Valerie Grondin for owner Clark Bustard and has now finished either first or second in all of her 13 career starts. MaydayMaverickHope (S. Wilson) lead throughout before settling for the runner-up placing. GailsGirlInMotion (M. Athearn) rode the pylons for the show. The second $9717 filly division was won by another daughter of Deuce Seelster as JustCallMeBets struck the pike route while holding off a determined bunch at the wire to secure a brand new lifetime clocking of 2:00.3 with driver Matthew Athearn in the bike. Out of the broodmare JustCallMeRosie, the filly claimed her eighth career win for trainer Gretchen Athearn and owner William Phipps in the process. Wicked Wanda (D. Ingraham) launched a game rally from far back to earn the bridesmaid share. CominRightAtYou (R. Cushing) ended her two race win streak while settling for third. Deuce Seelster then completed a "parenting Trifecta" of sorts as another of his get, Bait A Hook, grabbed top honors in the first $9722 colt split of the afternoon. With driver David Ingraham at the helm, the win, timed in a seasonal best 1:58, was the third of the season for last year's freshman champion. Co-parented by the broodmare, Josie Plumstead, Bait A Hook gave trainer Valerie Grondin and owner Clark Bustard their second sire stakes score of the day. LucksRealDeal (M. Athearn) tracked throughout to place second while LittleBitShady (D. Campbell) was third. Inches separated the field at the wire in the second $9723 colt division as driver Gary Mosher popped CBF Bantam from the pocket in deep stretch to overtake the front running Maverick Art at the wire. Trained by David Crochere for co-owners Glen Harris and Marion Phelps, the son of Baron Biltmore-Cohenucopia secured his second consecutive Maine Sire Stakes win, this one timed in 1:59.2. Maverick Art (B. Ranger) continued his sizzling sophomore season by finishing second while Touch Of Character (S. Wilson) rallied strongly for third. The popular Sunday matinee will go to post at a special 1:00 pm post time tomorrow (8/4) as the Downs plays host to their 15th annual Family Fun Day Festival. Live harness racing will continue next week with twilight cards scheduled for 4:30 PM (EDT) on Thursday and Friday while the Downs will be dark on Saturday (8/10) as an accommodation to the Topsham Fair. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. by Mike Sweeney, for Scarborough Downs

After years of struggles, there is a glimmer of hope for the harness racing track, coming off its best financial year in a decade. Since it opened in 1950, Scarborough Downs has been the flagship of the state’s horse racing industry, once referred to as “Maine’s Showplace of Harness Racing.” But when it was sold in January 2018 to a local group of developers, it seemed to mark the final chapter for a faltering racetrack that had the look and feel of a forgotten sport. Not so fast, it turns out. There seems to be a glimmer of hope for the track and the state’s harness racing industry, which has been teetering for at least two decades. Last year, Scarborough Downs posted its first annual revenue increase since 2006. More new horses are being entered in races. And the new owners don’t seem in a hurry to end the racing there. There are still challenges ahead: The buildings need repairs, attendance is low, and many horsemen still take their horses out of state. But the future appears brighter than it has in years. “We’re still thinking that it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future,” said Rocco “Roccy” Risbara of Crossroads Holdings LLC. “We’re pleased with what they’re doing there.” Crossroads Holdings plans to turn the 500 acres off Route 1 into a mixed-used village center known as The Downs. Residential construction is underway, and an agreement has been reached to build a recreational sports complex near the track. The developers also received approval last week for a 154-acre business park. But their long-term plan has never specified what will happen to the racetrack, one of two remaining commercial harness racing tracks in the state, along with Bangor Raceway. “It would be nice to know if this place is going to be around for another 30 years,” said Beth Graffam, whose family stables 50 horses at Norton Farm in Falmouth. No one will guarantee that. There are strong indications, however, that Scarborough Downs will remain open after its lease runs out when the racing season ends in December. Risbara said his group will negotiate a lease extension with the Terry family, the former owners who continue to operate the track. And the developers are conducting a $25,000 feasibility study of the track’s aging 6,500-seat grandstand to determine what can be done to make it more attractive for other events. “We’re trying to figure out what we have and what we can do with it,” Risbara said. Members of Maine’s harness racing community – from owners and trainers to drivers – are watching these developments anxiously. Last year, the state saw its first increase in total handle – money wagered on live racing and simulcasts – in 16 years, boosted by Scarborough Downs. “Scarborough Downs is extremely important to harness racing in the state of Maine,” said Drew Campbell, a driver from Saco. “It’s make or break for a lot of people, whether they stay in the business or not. A lot of people, it’s all they know.” A woman walks through the lower grandstand at Scarborough Downs to place a wager. Live harness racing accounted for just 9 percent of the track’s handle last year. BEN MCCANNA/Portland Press Herald Scarborough Downs’ revenue increased from just over $2.1 million in 2017 to just under $2.3 million in 2018, according to Denise Terry, vice president of finance. That’s an increase of 8.5 percent, halting more than a decade of annual declines that had seen revenue plunge from $4.7 million in 2006. “It was a good year. … I felt like there was a different mood here last year,” said Terry. The track has had initial talks with the developers about extending the lease, “but nothing concrete yet,” Terry said. She expects the lease negotiations to begin before summer is over. Just two years ago, Scarborough Downs officials weren’t sure from week to week if the track would stay open. “It was very discouraging,” said Mike Sweeney, the track’s publicist and race announcer. “I’d come into work every day with the thought in my mind that I didn’t want to be the one to turn the lights out for the last time.” The racetrack appeared to get even more good news when the Maine Legislature passed a bill in June to legalize sports betting, with Scarborough Downs mentioned as a site. But Gov. Janet Mills is holding the bill, delaying its implementation. Even before she did that, Scarborough Downs officials were cautious about what passage meant to the track, offering a statement that said: “We commend the legislature for creating the opportunity to legalize, regulate and tax sports betting in Maine, as it will move the activity away from the black market and increase revenue for the state. But what this means for Scarborough Downs, at this time, is still unclear to us.” Years of revenue declines have taken a toll on the track’s appearance. Some windows in the grandstand are boarded up, fences need to be mended and walls need to be painted. The tote board, which displays the odds for each race and the winner, is hard to read because so many lights are out. The track closed, and then removed, its barns in 2016 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined that seepage from horse manure had contaminated local groundwater. The barns had provided homes to over 300 horses at one time. Last year, new televisions were installed in the lower clubhouse for simulcast racing – an investment that’s paying off. The track’s simulcast handle increased 17 percent from 2017 to 2018, from $7.4 million to $8.6 million. Simulcast wagering accounted for 91 percent of the track’s total handle. Scarborough Downs provides simulcast races in its clubhouse every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (or until the last race is completed) except Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving patrons the opportunity to bet on horse races across the United States. Betting on live harness races was down by $4,298 last year to $812,484, a decrease of less than 1 percent, according to the Maine State Harness Racing Commission. Still, it was Scarborough Downs’ best year in this decade. Since 2010, the live racing handle has dropped each year, most years by well over $100,000. But those total live handle numbers don’t tell the whole story of 2018. Sweeney said Scarborough Downs has been aided by a decrease in race days. For many years, the track had well over 100 racing days per year. Scarborough Downs officials had argued that was too many. In 2017, the state agreed and cut back the number of racing days. This year Scarborough was awarded 76 days, with racing on weekends from April to December and on Thursdays in the summer. Fewer days allows the track to offer larger purses (prize money) in its races – and larger purses attract more horses. The average purse per race went from $3,984 in 2017 to $4,942 in 2018, Sweeney said, making for more competitive races with full entries. In recent years, there were some races with just five horses. “The schedule needed to be truncated,” said Sweeney. “You can get people excited about coming to the track; you just can’t get people excited about coming to the track day after day after day.” Bettors have taken notice. Track officials said the per-race handle for live racing increased by 6 percent last year, from $1,054 per race in 2017 to $1,113 in 2018. All of this was good news for the state’s harness racing industry, which in 2018 saw the first increase in its total handle in 16 years. It was only a 2 percent increase – from $24.5 million in 2017 to $25 million in 2018 – but it reversed a downward spiral that had seen the statewide handle plunge by 63.6 percent since 2002, according to a report prepared for the Maine Harness Racing Commission by the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine. “There is a lot of optimism within the industry that there is an opportunity to right the ship and see growth in the coming years,” said Henry Jennings, executive director of the Maine Harness Racing Commission. That trend may be continuing this year. On May 4 – the busiest day on Scarborough Downs’ calendar because of the Kentucky Derby – the live racing handle at Scarborough Downs was up 21 percent from 2018, Sweeney said. The overall handle, including simulcast wagers, was up 2 percent with an estimated 2,000 fans on hand. On most days with live racing, however, there are maybe a few hundred patrons at the track, many absorbed in simulcast racing on the TV screens. Few people gather on benches outside close to the track. On Derby Day, however, many of the patrons were lined along the fence at the edge of the track. “The crowd is the main thing,” said Maguire Sowers, a 19-year-old driver from New Brunswick who lives in Windsor. “The more people you have, the better it is. As you saw (on Derby Day), it was outrageous. And it’s nice when you make the turn for home in the stretch and you’ve got a horse in the lead and you hear the crowd screaming and cheering. That’s what it’s all about.” It’s a far cry from the 1970s and 1980s, when Scarborough Downs routinely had bustling crowds, including a record attendance of 9,133 on June 29, 1980, when actor Lou Ferrigno was on hand to sign autographs, according to Sweeney. By the 1990s, the crowds had dwindled and the track stopped charging admission and keeping attendance figures. And when Scarborough Downs stopped night racing in 2007 – the light posts had to be removed after the hub rail was removed for safety reasons – the crowds thinned out even more. That forced the track to close its 400-seat restaurant, which now is only open three times a year (for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes). Funds from the Bangor Raceway casino, approved by state voters in a 2003 referendum, have helped to keep the state’s horse racing industry afloat. Ten percent of the funds go toward purses while 4 percent goes directly to the racetracks. Still, the decades-long decline in wagering at Scarborough Downs led to smaller purses, causing many owners and trainers to race their horses out of state, such as at Plainridge Park in southeastern Massachusetts. “They do an absolute five-star, first-class job there,” said Campbell, who won his 5,000th career race earlier this year. “They have a lot of things that they don’t have (at Scarborough Downs).” Plainridge, which includes a casino, opened 20 years ago, one of five harness racing tracks in America to open since 1999. Conversely, 16 harness racing tracks have closed during that time. Plainridge’s purses often exceed $15,000. Campbell races there three days a week and at Scarborough on weekends. State Rep. Don Marean, an independent from Hollis, was a horse owner and breeder in Maine for 35 years but got out of the business because of its uncertainty. He said horsemen will invest in more horses if they have assurances about Scarborough Downs’ future. “We need a plan so we can move forward,” said Marean, treasurer of the U.S. Trotting Association, the national body that oversees harness racing. “The industry will make a comeback once we have something in place that we’re going to be around for a while.” The uncertainty surrounding Scarborough Downs isn’t anything new. “It’s been going on for a very long time, since the late 1980s,” said Todd DuBois, a second-generation horse trainer from Scarborough. No one is expecting a return to the glory days, but there are encouraging signs for Scarborough Downs. Sweeney noted that of the 168 horses that raced in Scarborough on Kentucky Derby weekend, 57 did not race in Maine a year earlier. Those associated with the industry see other positive aspects. Mike Cushing, president of the Maine Harness Horseman’s Association, said he sees more owners and breeders getting involved. “Every facet of the industry is in an upward tick,” he said. People who work in the industry realize they need to appeal to a younger crowd to keep it alive. “If you have been to a track, you recognize the demographic is a bit on the elderly side,” said Jennings.”We have recognized that it’s vitally important to attract younger fans. … It’s a challenge, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.” Scarborough Downs has pushed hard on social media, with accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Maine Harness Racing Commission spent $10,000 on advertising in 2017. This year, Jennings said, it has $170,000 to spend. If the positives continue, Risbara said there is no rush to close the track. He said the entire development project is expected to take 30 to 40 years. “We’ll keep developing and eventually we’ll figure out what makes sense for the racetrack portion of the site,” he said. “As we start to get occupancies and people living there, it may help (the track). It certainly won’t hurt them, getting people around.” By MIKE LOWE Reprinted with permission of the Portland Press Herald

Scarborough, Maine - July 28, 2019 ... The three-year-old trotting divisions of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes made their first appearance at Scarborough Downs on Sunday 7/28) after four consecutive weeks spent on the northern harness racing circuit at Bangor Raceway. The filly division split evenly into twin five-horse fields, each racing for identical $9709 purses and the streaking sensation, Just Enuf Sass, wasted precious little time in continuing her sophomore stakes dominance, whipping off her fourth consecutive victory march while cruising, in-hand, to a 6-3/4 length romp. Trained by Joseph Flynn, the impressive daughter of Boy Band-Sassy's Child stopped the clock in a leisurely 2:01.4, with Wallace Watson catch driving for the ownership tandem of Joseph and Edward Flynn. Winning Wind (M. Athearn) finished second while Lady Victoria (I. Davies) was third. Pembroke Vicki claimed top honors in the other filly split as she rode the front-end journey to her third stakes win of the season with Heath Campbell driving for trainer Valerie Grondin. Owned by William Varney, the daughter of Noble Venture-Spring Laughter has now finished either first or second in all five of her sophomore stakes appearances. Buena Vita Bebe (R. Cushing) rallied late to secure the runner-up placing while Kate At The Cup (G. Mosher) settled for third. On the boys' side of the equation, nine colts and geldings were programmed into one $10,682 field with eight scoring behind the gate and one relegated to the second tier. Undeterred by the trailing assignment though, Ally Way Cast nailed his second stakes win in row with veteran driver Gary Mosher calling the shots for Hall of Fame trainer, Donald Richards. Ally Way Cast, last year's freshman sire stakes champion is a son of Current Cast-Ally Gal Ridge and is owned in partnership by Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight. Spot On Gone (I. Davies) recovered from a break behind the gate to finish second while SaltPondNic (D. Ingraham) grabbed the show dough. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (8/3) when the three-year-old pacing divisions take to the raceway. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinee will go to post at a special 1:00 pm starting time next weekend as the Downs plays host to their 15th annual Family Fun Day Festival. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 27, 2019 ... The two-year-old harness racing pacing divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program took center stage at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (7/27) with twin five-horse splits of freshman fillies contesting purses of $9561 and $9562 respectively, while the colts divided out into two races of their own; a field of five going for $9592 while a six horse field garnered a $9692 share. Veteran driver/trainer John Nason sent a pair of ferocious fillies to the gate and their dominant performances soon became the story of the day. First, Western Jane Doe proved relentless in earning her first career winner's circle appearance, claiming the lead from the word "Go" and refusing to relinquish that advantage despite numerous overland challenges. Nason charted the winning course for co-owners Carolyn Corso and Lynn-Marie Plouffe, steering the daughter of Western Maverick-B Passionate to a one-length margin at the wire, timed in 2:01.2. Shes A Fireball (R. Cushing) overcame an early break to rally into the runner-up spot while Two Moods (Ivan Davies) applied persistent overland pressure throughout the third panel before settling for third. Nason then doubled his Maine Sire Stakes pleasure, claiming top honors in the second filly split with Maverick Fiber. The daughter of Western Maverick-Fiber Art won in-hand by a 3-3/4 length measure while breaking her maiden timed in 2:01 as owner Carolyn Corso's roster completed a day of domination in the filly portion of the stakes program. JustCallMeMinnie (M. Athearn) was second while ProudAmericanGirl (S. Thayer) finished third. The boys managed to spread the accolades around a bit more as Wesley Snoops tasted victory for the very first time in his career while impressively making every pole a winning one. Driver/trainer Ivan Davies proved masterful in the sulky, guiding the low-headed son of Western Maverick-Secure Hanover to an under wraps 2-1/2 length margin while stopping the clock in an unhurried 2:00.4. Wesley Snoops was bred and is owned by Nancy Longobardi of Norfolk, Ma. The Leaping Cowboy (M. Athearn) sat the pocket trip while finishing second and Pembroke Ranger, likewise, saved ground to snag third. The second division saw Clairmont continue his rampage through the early portion of the freshman stakes season, remaining undefeated while earning his second consecutive stakes victory from only two lifetime starts. Driver Ron Cushing guided the son of Western Maverick-Unknown Artist to an easy 8-3/4 length jiggy-jog, coasting to the wire timed in a career best 2:01. Clairmont is trained by Heidi Gibbs for co-owners Kevin Sywyk and Ronald Cushing. Run Around John (N. Graffam) rallied for the bridesmaid share while Mister Puzzles (R. Humphrey) finished third. In other action, driver Nick Graffam held the hot hand at the Downs on Saturday, teaming five winners down Victory Lane and at one point scoring four wins in a row. Maine Sire Stakes action returns to Scarborough Downs on Sunday as the three-year-old trotters take center stage. Post time for Sunday's card is slated for 1:30 pm (EDT) with a pair of non-betting Maine Sire Stakes races scheduled to go to post at 12:30 pm. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 19, 2019 ... The races scheduled for Saturday July 20th have been cancelled due to the expected high heat indices caused by the heat wave that is bearing down on the east coast this weekend. This decision was reached in joint consultation with represents of the track, the Maine Harness Racing Commission, the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, The Maine Harness Horsemen's Association, as well as members of the veterinarian community who all agreed that proceeding with the Saturday card would present unacceptable risks to the participants. At this point, live harness racing is scheduled to resume on Sunday (7/21), weather permitting. The four dashes of three-old-old Maine Sire Stakes originally drawn as part of Saturday's cancelled card will be raced as non-betting events beginning at 11:30 AM (EDT) with the eleven-race pari-mutuel program getting underway at 1:30 PM. A decision regarding the viability of Sunday's card will be made early in the weekend if forecasts continue to predict unacceptable heat indices heading into Sunday. Please refer to the Scarborough Downs Facebook page for further updates. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 18, 2019 ... Bruce Ranger pieced together a remarkable performance on Thursday (7/18) as the veteran harnes racing driver and "comeback kid" won six consecutive races at Scarborough Downs while completely dominating the nine race mid-week card. The fans, apparently sensing an epic performance in the making, sent Ranger to the gate as the post time favorite in all nine of his appearances, but their faith in the state of Maine native pilot did not begin paying dividends until the Ranger rampage was set loose in the fourth, as he guided Smart Balance through a gate-to-wire victory march for trainer Nicole Hardy. The juggernaut continued with a 1:57.2 score behind a headstrong Shrinkwrap (the second training win of the day for Hardy); Tricia Star (the fifth consecutive win for the Aaron Hall trainee); Plus One (the fourth consecutive win for the Buddy Burke trainee); Pop A Top Pop (one of two wins on the card for trainer Eric Davis); and concluded with San Antony-O (the 63rd career victory for the 14-year-old veteran pacer). Ranger, who is in the midst of his first full season back at the races after coming out of retirement in October of 2018, passed the 9000 career win plateau just last month at Bangor Raceway and sits as the third leading state of Maine native in career wins, trailing only Billy Parker, Jr (11,311) and Walter Case, Jr (11,049). After his six-pack performance on Thursday, Ranger now resides in third place on the Scarborough Downs leader's board with 37 seasonal scores, just 2 wins back of Kevin Switzer, Jr who resides in second place and 14 wins shy of the perennial powerhouse, Drew Campbell, who leads the driving colony at the Downs with 51 top tallies. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine - July 13, 2019 ... A large and enthusiastic crowd packed the stands on a picture perfect day at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (7/13) as a determined group of big league harness racing pacers converged on the raceway to do battle in the $25,000 renewal of the Mid-Summer Classic The field was headed by Bettors Fire N, the morning line favorite, who was bidding to add the Mid-Summer Classic title to his win in The Dirigo Pace earlier this season, thus laying claim to the laurels from both of Scarborough's 2019 premier invitational pacing events - A sturdy, steadied, assemblage of warrior steeds however, were determined to stand in his way. The opening salvo was fired just as soon as the starter released the field when Zack Lee and driver Dan Deslandes gunned off the car in search of their customary front line assault. That maneuver was countered though as Kevin Switzer, Jr took full advantage of an unexpectedly wide open rail to launch their own campaign toward an early advantage, while heavily favored Bettors Fire N and driver Ron Cushing complicated matters as they joined the early fracas in a three wide flanking move. The hard charging trio reached the quarter pole with the tele-timer announcing a sizzling :26.3 opening clocking. Bettors Fire N, hard used to the top, then got a bit of a breather while piking to the half in 56.2 with StormyWeatherAhead breathing right down Cushing's neck. Drew Campbell, ever the strategizing general, then pulled Quick Shot to engage the pacesetter as the field rambled past the 5/8th-mile marker while the persistent pressure brought the tandem to the 3/4-mile station timed in a brisk 1:25.1. The pair then raced in lockstep to the head of the lane. Down the stretch they thundered and as they turned for home, StormyWeatherAhead engineered a sneak attack up the pylons to form a three-wide cavalry charge to the wire. Despite his well executed battle plan, Bettor's Fire N soon found himself flanked on either side by ferocious combatants. When the dust had settled and the battle done, it was Bettors Fire N claiming the major spoils by a scant 3/4-length over Quick Shot who just nosed out StormyWeatherAhead for the place, as the tele-timer documented the epic, proclaiming a stellar 1:54 final clocking. The win marked the 50th career victory lap for Bettors Fire, an 11-year-old son of Bettor's Delight-Sparks A Flyin who is trained by Heidi Gibbs for the ownership tandem of Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. He is next expected to link up with forces in the northern Maine theatre, to contest supremacy in Bangor Raceway's Paul Bunyan Pace on July 19th. Next up on the Scarborough Downs invitational scene though will be the $25,000 Joseph Ricci Memorial Trot slated to be contested at the seaside oval on Saturday August 24th. Live harness racing is featured three day a week at Scarborough Downs with 4:30 pm (EDT) twilight cards slated for Thursdays and Saturdays while the popular Sunday matinees go to post at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

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